Monday, June 22, 2015

Last Call For Spidey's Justice

None of the big decisions slated for SCOTUS came down today, but there will be a decision day on Thursday AND one on Friday in addition to the one already scheduled for next Monday. Odds are extremely good we'll get some major news in a few days on the death penalty, Obamacare subsidies, the Fair Housing Act, and/or marriage equality.

Meanwhile, one of the cases that was handed down on Monday involved Marvel Entertainment, royalties, and Spider-Man and an excelsior opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan, as Steve Benen points out:

The entirely of the ruling is online here (pdf). 
A very small number of people are likely to actually read the decision, which is a shame in a way because Kagan, a comics fan, went out of her way to include quite a few not-so-subtle Spider-Man references in the opinion.

Page 2: ”The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can).” 
Page 3: “Patents endow their holders with certain superpowers, but only for a limited time.” 
Page 11: “To the contrary, the decision’s close relation to a whole web of precedents means that reversing it could threaten others.” 
Page 18: “But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: ‘Spider-Man,’ p. 13 (1962) (‘[I]n this world, with great power there must also come – great responsibility’).” 

That last one needs to be framed somewhere on the wall in Marvel's office of general counsel.

Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias added, “According to Supreme Court Review, Kagan is an “avid comic book fan” and must have been delighted to score the opportunity to write this decision. That last joke is actually the essence of the case. The Supreme Court is being asked to overturn an earlier precedent, and Kagan is saying that overturning precedents isn’t something the Court should do without a very compelling reason. They have a responsibility to provide the country with a predictable, publicly understood code of laws, and that means being restrained in their use of the authority to change things up.”

Which actually does makes sense here.  The Supremes, in a 5-4 decision, did not overturn precedent to extend royalties further than the law required even though Marvel had reached an agreement to do so.

I'm guessing not too many people get to quote Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in Supreme Court decisions, but hey, you have to when you have an opportunity like that.

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